Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #2

#2.) USC

What You Need to Know: USC is still USC. That should be enough to justify a #2 ranking and being a contender for the BCS title. In case you've been asleep for the past 6 years, let's recap shall we?

6 straight conference titles. 6 straight BCS Bowls. 6 straight seasons of 11 or more wins. 6 straight years being ranked Top 4 to close the season. A final tally of 70 wins, 8 losses, and 2 National Titles. Oh yeah... those came back-to-back. Suffice to say, USC has been the belle of this ball for going on the last decade.

What's changed in South Central? Quite a bit actually. The Trojans lose 11 starters, and they weren't the starters who didn't really matter (like their whole wideout corp). They were impact players and defensive standouts. How impactful were they? 7 of them were taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.

Questions abound around USC. In such a strange offseason, highlighted by a pesky outbreak of jock itch, many wonder if USC's stranglehold on good fortune, positive karma, or what have you has come to an end. Stud RB Joe McKnight injured his hand in a freak accident when his dorm door was closed on it. He then hyperextended his elbow in a scrimmage. Newly minted QB Mark Sanchez suffered a dislocated kneecap in practice. This is not the way USC wanted to begin its bid for a title.

The questions reside exclusively on offense, as the Trojans have an untested QB, untested RB, an under performing class of wideouts, and an offensive line that is big, fast, strong, and completely unknown. They replace 4 of 5 starters on the O-line, and if this team doesn't gel quick and effectively, it could be a long season for Trojan faithful.

What is giving folks optimism and hope is the defense. You will not find a better defensive 11 anywhere in the country. Top to bottom, and all over the two-deep depth chart are players that are extremely athletic, extremely talented, and extremely good. Offensive woes or not, this defense will keep the Trojans in any game and allow for mistakes and miscues from a green offensive unit, something that will benefit USC greatly as this season advances.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
DT Fili Moala: 32 tkls, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks
LB Rey Maualuga: 79 tkls, 10.5 TFL, 6 sacks, INT
SS Kevin Ellison: 57 tkls, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF

Game To Watch:
The game that everyone has had circled in red on their calendar since schedules were announced has been September 13th. However, with the hype, the quality of the opponents, even a loss will not destroy USC's chance to make it to the BCS title game. Any other loss would be devastating. Outside the OSU game, the Trojans' toughest tests are back to back on October 4 and October 11 against Oregon and Arizona State. Both those games are in the Coliseum, and both should be wins for the Trojans. Every other game will have USC a heavy favorite. Their most challenging road game comes at the conclusion of the season when they travel to UCLA.

They'll Do Well If...: The Trojans will do well if the offensive line comes together and allows Sanchez and a bevy of running backs to make plays. The Trojans will do great if they win the games they should.

Season Outlook: While it's true that USC could rebound from a loss against the Buckeyes, a win would mean USC could be staring an undefeated season square in the face. Despite the game being at home for the Trojans, it's a loss, though much closer than many expect. They'll run the table the rest of the way, though there will be scares. The Notre Dame and UCLA games will be much closer than many expect, and the Arizona State and Oregon games will be shootouts that come down to the wire. In the end, USC is USC, and they'll pick up their seventh straight Pac 10 championship and seventh straight BCS appearance. They'll finish the year 11-1 and will wait for the computers to spit out the participants of the BCS title game.


Rusty Curtis said...

For all your talk about the stout Trojan defense, how can you think there will be shoot-outs, or even a loss. I'm not one of those who thinks there is no way we can lose a game, but I think many Trojan fans are being extra conservative in their predictions (which admittedly, is not a bad thing).

Anonymous said...

ha ha nice post. we should do a link exchange